The sandwich's simple format offers unlimited options for culinary creativity.
At Woody's Hitching Post — deep in Monkton's pastoral horse country — chef-owner David "Woody" Woodruff is busy exploring those options — to the great benefit of his customers.
Woodruff opened his eponymous shop last summer, leaving behind a career in commercial real estate (he had restaurant experience from his younger days). It's a simple spot — bare-bones decor, handwritten signs advertising the menu, a handful of tables and an open, diner-style kitchen — but that keeps the focus on the food and on Woodruff's friendly personality.
On a recent Saturday around 11 a.m., Woody's had a steady stream of customers, though never more than Woodruff — who was alone behind the counter — could handle.
The Woody's process is straightforward: Place your order with Woodruff at the counter, grab a drink and chips and find a seat. Once your sandwiches are ready, Woody will deliver them to you, wrapped in paper. Pay when you're finished.
As we waited the five or ten minutes it took Woodruff to prepare our sandwiches, we settled in with glasses of iced tea ($1.50) and a bag of Deep River Snacks rosemary and olive oil potato chips ($1.25 for a small). The chips, made by a Connecticut-based company, were surprisingly good for something that came right out of a bag.
Woody's menu includes classic combinations, like bacon, lettuce and tomato or turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy, as well as some more creative concepts.
The Hellmer Fudd ($4.50) — grilled cheddar cheese with pickled onions, Dijon mustard and roasted red peppers — was named after a regular customer who helped Woodruff develop the vegetarian-friendly option.
We were initially intrigued by the pickled onions, and they did add tang and crunch to the gooey sandwich. But it turned out that the mustard was the star of the filling. With serious, make-your-nose-run bite, it disabused us of any notion that this was a run-of-the-mill grilled cheese.
The College Student ($6) was an apt name for a sandwich that loaded just about everything imaginable. Piled high on slices of rye, fresh turkey salad (tuna was another option) was garnished by bright green onions, slightly spicy salsa, roasted red peppers, mild Monterey Jack cheese, creamy avocado and a scattering of hash browns. The surprising combination worked, delivering a variety of flavors in each bite.
The ingredient combinations in Woody's sandwiches are interesting, but the key to their excellence is in the details. Turkey that's freshly roasted; pickled onions that are tart, but still crisp; avocado that's exactly ripe enough. Without attention to those details, the sandwiches would still be good; with that attention, they're great.
Local favorite Stone Mill Bakery supplies Woody's bread and some of the desserts; the bakery does a good job with both.
We tried both sandwiches on rye (white and wheat are other options). The chewy bread smelled fantastic and stood up even to the overloaded College Student.
Dessert was a small selection of plastic-wrapped items. Our experience suggests that cookies and brownies hand-wrapped in plastic are usually well worth the price; the Stone Mill blondie ($2.50) at Woody's was no exception. A generous square of sweet cookie, studded with chocolate, the blondie was moist inside, with a crumbly, firm crust — as good as any grandma's.
Lunch at Woody's can be a quick affair, or leisurely. We spied some locals hanging out, reading the newspapers and horse-and-hunt magazines that were scattered around the tables, while others ran in to grab a quick sandwich before heading back out to the Saturday sunshine.
But everyone stopped for a quick chat with Woody himself. He's obviously a popular figure in his sleepy country neighborhood. Given the strength of his sandwiches, Woody's popularity is likely to extend well beyond Monkton, and soon.
Woody's Hitching Post
Back story: Opened last summer by Monkton resident David "Woody" Woodruff, Woody's is a must-visit spot for creative sandwiches and friendly banter in the northern Baltimore County countryside.
Parking: Lot on side
Signature dish: The "College Student" takes an appealing everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to sandwiches, combining turkey or tuna salad, green onions, salsa, roasted red peppers, Monterey Jack cheese, avocado and - the piece de resistance - hash browns on white, wheat or rye bread.
Where: 17052 Troyer Road, Monkton
Open: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard and Discover
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reservations: Accepted (Woody's is casual, but owner Woody Woodruff will make sure large groups have seating if they call ahead.)
[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very Good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star]
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun